On Edge With Stormy Weather Over Wenlock

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Before and after last summer’s wheat harvest.


As I’ve mentioned once or several times, I spend much time watching the sky behind our house. I never cease to be fascinated by the false horizon created by this low hill. Behind it is a another false horizon created by Wenlock Edge which lies a half mile further on.  Here in Wenlock, then, we see the movement of clouds in the westerly sky  several hundred feet higher than do our neighbours below the Edge. It is a piece of geographic happenstance that makes for dramatic skyscapes. It’s a bit like watching a moving stage set.

I justify the time spent sky watching on the grounds that I need to make the most of this view. Doubtless the local landowner will get his way and one day build a sprawling housing estate here, this despite the fact the town has a Victorian drainage system that cannot cope with any more human effluent. Already, just to add an off-colour atmosphere to the scene, our sewage works is licensed to dump excess untreated waste into the stream which thence flows into the River Severn and through the World Heritage Site of the Ironbridge Gorge. This is clearly what is meant in England when certain politicians bang on about Victorian Values.  Sometimes I wonder how, as a nation, we can be so very smug about ourselves.

The poor drains of course add to the town’s flash flooding risk, and to replace them would cost many millions. We do not appear to have a planning system in this country that says NO to development, even though there is insufficient infra-structure to support it. Developers of course pay a pro rata community levy on the number of houses built, but such amounts could not begin to cover the cost of the kind of remedial work that is necessary. When Wenlock’s population is less than 3,000, why would a water company spend 10 million pounds on such a venture?

The main problem is that the town sits in a hollow behind the summit of Wenlock Edge. The town centre is at the lowest point and thus one of the most vulnerable areas. In 2007 over fifty houses were damaged. Many afflicted families were still trying to restore their homes up to a year later. And while insurance cover may make good the bricks and mortar, it does not bring back the personal belongings that were lost, or quickly eradicate the memory of having a metre high flood rushing through your house.

Mostly of course, the town does not flood, although parts of it are prone to run-off from surrounding hills in times of prolonged wet weather. As far as we know, our house has never flooded, although given its position, built into the bottom of the hill, this is in some ways surprising. There is anyway a low earth bund along the back boundary and, after earlier flood incidents lower down the street, the landowner’s tenant farmer continues to leave a broad swathe of uncultivated ground behind our houses, and then ploughs  in line with it.

In fact to create real problems it takes a certain kind of storm to hit our catchment area. But when it comes there is less than 20 minutes warning before a flash flood. The roads into the town become rivers. Every hard surface speeds up the flow, and given our antiquated system, all the storm water goes into the foul sewer. All of which is to say, as one of the flood alert wardens with the brief of forewarning elderly neighbours, I also have more pressing reasons for watching the sky, and keeping an eye on any storms brewing.

copyright 2015 Tish Farrell


In Much Wenlock An Inspector Calls

Please visit Paula’s place at Lost in Translation for more fascinating cloudscape photographs.

Sarah by the Sea ~ Black & White Sunday


This photo was taken two Christmases ago on the island of Anglesey (Ynys  Môn) in North Wales.  The island saw the last stand of the Celtic druids, who were defeated there during the Roman conquest of Britain. This edited image, with the faint glow of light around the dark silhouette,  suggests to me the lingering Celtic spirit – quiescent and contained now, but still purposeful.

Inspired by Paula’s request for quiet. For more hushed compositions in black & white please visit her blog at Lost in Translation

Related: For more of the Druid’s last battle see my earlier post Island of Old Ghosts.
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Winterscapes on Wenlock Edge: Thursday’s Special


I have said elsewhere (In the old stones of Wenlock) how our cottage in Much Wenlock is built from a recycled fossil sea bed – the stony remnants of the 400 million year old Silurian Sea that once lay in the tropics off East Africa. If you want to know more of this extraordinary geological phenomenon, please follow the link.

Here in the midst of northern hemisphere weather, a warm sea in Shropshire is a hard concept to grasp, but then Shropshire was south of the equator back then. All the same, I would give much at this moment to soak myself in clear tropical waters – as long as giant Silurian water scorpions are not included.

Anyway, this is the rear view from our cottage window. At the front we look at oversized passing heavy goods vehicles. In some ways I like the ambiguity of our position, poised between the rush and rumble of commercial imperative, and the monumental  immanence of Wenlock Edge – between the speeding trucks and a hard, quiet place. The Edge of course  is mostly made of limestone – the compressed remains dead sea creatures. At some point the sea bed was shunted upwards to make the long escarpment that is now a striking landmark across the south east of the county.


From our house we look towards the back of the Edge. Some undulating ‘foothills’ obscure an actual view of it, but we see the big sky above the  escarpment, and have a sense of weather always moving behind the horizon. The cottage, then, is not only on the Edge and of the Edge, the Edge is the reason why it is here at all.

So far our researches have been rather patchy, but we think the house was built around 1830. It was probably a squatter cottage, meaning that  it was built on the local landowner’s property, and a rent or fine was paid to him by the inhabitants. The first occupants appear to have been lime burners, working at nearby limekilns. The limestone was burned to make quick lime that was used for fertilizer, for building mortar, and for lime wash for walls inside and out . It was an immensely important commodity.

It is hard to imagine, though, what the atmosphere of Much Wenlock would have been like in lime burning days. The town sits in a hollow, a frost pocket. On cold winter’s days one imagines a fog of fumes from roasted limestone shrouding the rooftops. Doubtless it would have been corrosive on the lungs too.

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This last shot was taken in January from the top of Wenlock Edge. Here we have the cooling towers of Ironbridge coal-fired Power Station (its days are numbered), and the Ironbridge Gorge beyond. Limestone once played a crucial role in that locality too, used as a flux in the iron masters’ blast furnaces in Coalbrookdale. Along the River Severn just south of these steaming towers, the Industrial Revolution began with the first casting of iron using coke as a fuel. It is hard to picture I know, much like a fossil tropical ocean in Shropshire, but the technological breakthroughs made in this English backwater spurred on the world’s drive to industrialisation.

It would seem that the Silurian Sea and its petrified molluscs and sea lilies have much to answer for.

copyright 2015 Tish Farrell

Inspired by Paula’s Thursday’s Special: cold

Black & White Sunday


Today Paula’s guest blogger over at Lost in Translation is Debbie Smyth who many will know from her own blog Travel with Intent. Today she is setting us the challenge to ‘let the shapes shine through’. This is what she says:


For me the most important point about monochrome is that by removing the distraction of colour, the photographer is able to direct the viewer to the key elements of the image.  Going monochrome is one of several tools we have as a photographer that allows us to provide focus.

The composition of my own photo is perhaps a little ‘busy’ in this B & W version (it could have done without the pole), but I like the play of light on the dhow sails, the clouds, and Lali’s straw hat. It was taken in Manda Strait, in Kenya’s Lamu archipelago.

For the story behind the photo, please go HERE. But now here are more versions. The second one down is a ‘red filter’ edit, followed by sepia. Let me know what you think.

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Guest Challenge: Knowing your place (colour photo challenge)

This week I’m also over at Paula’s blog, Lost in Translation. She kindly asked me to post a guest photo challenge ‘Knowing My Place’. It’s all about finding some cunning new angle that tells you something fresh about a place you think you know very well. To find out more read on, and to see Paula’s own amazing photo response go HERE:

Lost in Translation


 Tish Farrell:

Music: Vaughan Williams On Wenlock Edge song cycle inspired by A E Housman’s A Shropshire Lad

January can be a lowering month – at least in the North. We are expected to burst, sparkling new, into the New Year, when we might feel more jaded than go-ahead. Hopefully this photo prompt will have you seeing things in a new light.
I’ve called it ‘Knowing My Place’, and you can interpret it in any way that strikes you. ‘My Place’ will be somewhere that you think you know inside out: your home town or street, the journey to work, your office, kitchen, garden or desk; your state of mind, or work in progress. Now search it with the camera’s eye. Sleuth out an angle that starts to tell you something new about it.
When I first thought of the prompt I was thinking about my home town, Much…

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Thursday’s Special: November Roses On My Kitchen Table


In response to Paula’s Thursday’s Special challenge, here are my late roses opening in the warmth of my kitchen. One petal has already fallen, the rest are soon to follow. But how blissful they smell (sorry I can’t provide a sniff link), and what a joy to pick roses in November even if they do last so briefly – indoors or out.

The greenery is Lemon Balm, a soothing herb for all occasions, and the apples are Coxes Pippins from the allotment. To my mind Coxes are the best apples ever, and totally wonderful in Tarte Tatin, which is a Sheinton Street speciality when He Who Leads is not having a fit of waistline watching.

And if you’ve not had Tarte Tatin, then you have a delight in store. It comprises whole or  halved, peeled and cored apples caramelized with vanilla, lemon juice, unsalted butter and sugar (enough apples to fill a pan in one layer). Then the pastry is laid on the top and tucked all round the fruit, and the lot baked in the oven. To serve, place a plate over the pan (carefully and using oven gloves) and turn out the Tarte. TA-RAAAH!  Have a warm evening everyone.